The Paolo Di Canio-Fascism furore that endured all week long following his appointment as Sunderland manager has been interesting watch.
Despite his initial protestations to discuss only football – and the feeble attempts of Sunderland’s evidently unprepared PR team – the Italian was eventually forced to issue a statement stating he was not a fascist. He then asked, once again, to focus solely on football. Questions remain. His statement did not necessarily denounce his previous statements in support of Mussolini.
His statement is probably just a necessity for him to now concentrate on the job at hand – and to give his PR team a well-deserved rest. Still, when the British media demands a respond, no matter how late or unbelievable your reply is, you have to bow to the beast. The lesson from this fiasco for West Ham United, a team whose badge adorns Di Canio’s arm and whose fans long for the former player to grace the managerial spot, is that a calamitous week for Sunderland would be a disaster of monumental proportions for the Hammers.
The reason why is simple: there have been enough nasty occurrences at the East London club this season alone to ensure the media would have a field day if a “fascist” came to the Upton Park helm. This season has seen antiSemitic chanting from West Ham fans at White Hart Lane, and the arrest of two men due to alleged racially aggravated public order offences at Stamford Bridge.
Yes, this was a small section of away fans, always the most vocal. Yes, the club publicly denounced the happenings and has done much to build greater ties with the Jewish community. Still, a whiff of either anti-Semitism or racism from West Ham in the past will be used to its full effect by the media if Di Canio ever came back to the club.
Personally, I’ve never experienced racism at Upton Park. For myself, who is mixedrace, I find the ground welcoming and homely, a place I have known warmly for almost twenty years. However, there is always going to be with any club, especially West Ham, a need to diminish the notorious representation the club holds amongst the public. For many, Di Canio and West Ham might make sense – not from a footballing standpoint. When the Italian went to Swindon, the GMB trade union ended its sponsorship over the appointment.
When Di Canio joined Sunderland, Miliband resigned, the Durham Miners Association asked for their banner to be returned, and a media spectacle ensued for a full week. If Di Canio ever joins West Ham, well, the club has been warned